So there are a ton of ways to script stuff in Windows...batch files, VBScript, PowerShell, etc... My favorite is AutoIT. AutoIT is a freeware (unfortunately not Open Source) tool that is very similar to the old basic language and can be used to do a wide variety of things in Windows. All your typical stuff like registry access and file access is available and because it can tap into Windows components you can do things like ftp. I was first attracted to the tool because it lets you script "button pushing". I was working on automating a standard image and we had a few applications that had poorly designed installation routines which you couldn't automate from the command line. AutoIt will let you wait for windows to pop up and then you can instruct it to press buttons in the window so you can have a "hands-off" installation. Take a look...it's well worth the effort.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I'm often asked to "jump in" to someone's PC and generally I use a Terminal Services client, Remote Assistance (check out sora.exe to make this easier), Ultravnc or Ultravnc SC. These solutions all have different benefits, but I've recently found another tool called CrossLoop that is pretty good too. It's a bit deceiving because it look like you have to register the tool, but you really don't. So, IMHO here is the low down on these tools:
Terminal Services - Great for remote control, but you're gonna knock off the local user at the box and there's no good way to shadow them and see what they are doing. Best used for remote access to servers. This is a very efficient tool from a bandwidth standpoint.
Remote Assistance - A decent tool, but it has to be enabled on the client and to take control of the mouse and keyboard the user has to first allow you in (meaning they have to be sitting at the machine waiting for you) and then they have to also let you remotely control their machine. This two step process is a pain. Also there's no easy way to get into a the client tool because it's buried in the Help and Support nonsense. I did find a tool called SORA.EXE which acts as a client helper making it easier to connect, but the users still needs to accept twice.
UltraVNC - A great tool with lots of options, but you have to load the tool which requires a reboot. It's pretty fast and seems to work well but walking a low tech user through loading the tool is a bit cumbersome. Adding it to a standard image is great for helpdesk folks. The benefit to this tool for helpdesk personnel is that the user need not be present to remotely control their PC. This is big brother...you can easily spy on users so make sure you include a remote policy on what is and what isn't acceptable behavior.
UltraVNC SC - This is an extension to UltraVNC...think of it as a mini-ultravnc setup. You edit and ini file and then create a .exe file which you can post on your website. Anybody can then download and run the tool. The install is seamless and it uninstall's when you disconnect so there is no permanent footprint. Because you prepopulate the ini file with your Internet IP address the user can simply click on a "connect to Fred" link in the tool to give you remote access. It supports encryption and can run on any port you want. Downside is if you are on the road and need to help someone it's difficult because you've tied your IP address into the ini file. (I haven't played with PCHelpware yet, but I'll look into it.)
CrossLoop - This tool does require installation on both sides of the connection but it's pretty simple and doesn't require a reboot. You can pass control both ways so they can see your screen or you can see theirs. So far it's been great for me when I'm out of the office and someone needs help. The one thing to note is that you can skip the registration during installation by clicking a little "skip" shortcut on the bottom right of the registration page. Good stuff.
So lots of tools and lots of options...no one tool is perfect for every situation but a between these tools I've been able to do everything I've needed to. If you've got a tool you think is better, drop me a comment.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I put on a session at this year's ILTA on WireShark. I got pretty good feedback and this month for the Open Source call-in I was asked to share some links to info on the net that I used for preparation of the talk. He are a few of them:
http://www.wireshark.org/ - The main WireShark Page
http://wiki.wireshark.org/ - The Wiki for WireShark
http://www.novell.com/connectionmagazine/laurachappell.html - Some old presentations by Laura Chappell gave at past Novell events.
http://laurachappell.blogspot.com/ - Laura Chappell's Blog
http://www.wireshark.org/news/20060714.html - A Beginning Tutorial and Podcast on WireShark from Chris Sanders
http://home.insight.rr.com/procana/ - Dated, but still relevant info on designing capture filters
http://thenetworkguy.typepad.com/nau/tips/index.html - Good general packet info site
http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9398 - VOIP and WireShark article
http://www.lovemytool.com/blog/2007/08/span-ports-or-t.html - Nice little article on TAPS and Span Port use when sniffing
http://www.techtraces.com/ - Another site with sample captures
http://gaia.cs.umass.edu/ethereal-labs/ - Even more sample captures (at the bottom of the page)
http://packetlife.net/ - a nice networking blog
Friday, September 05, 2008
So I committed myself to help develop a web site for my son's Cub Scout pack. I did a smallish site last year for his Den just to keep track of Calendar items and it worked pretty well. I hosted it at the time with 1and1.com which ended up costing about $3/month. At the end of the year, they wanted to jack up the rates so I didn't want to renew or start over with them this year. After a bit of searching I found a site called AirSet. (www.airset.com). It looks pretty cool. We can use it to manage documentation, calendars, photos...all kinds of stuff. The basic usage is free but once you use some decent amount of storage you need to pay a small fee. (5GB is $2/month) It looks like it might be a great way to collaborate...I'll let you know how it goes.